I was shocked and deeply saddened to see a tweet from Kandy Woodfield’s account announcing her passing. As Rob stated, she was a very much loved wife, sister, auntie, sister-in-law, and cats’ mum. My thoughts and condolences are with them all, during these most difficult times. I knew Kandy in a professional context, and I very much liked her as a person – she was always kind, thoughtful, humorous, poignant, intelligent, modest and vivacious.
This post highlights just one part of Kandy’s professional life – her contribution to the field of Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data AnalysiS (CAQDAS). Together with her colleagues at The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) Kandy developed the FrameWork Software. This work had a big impact on the field of qualitative and mixed methods social/policy research practice. It also influenced my thinking about the role of CAQDAS packages, and the relationship between technology and methodology more broadly. I hope this post goes some way to honouring Kandy’s impact in these areas.
Plans for FrameWork Software
I realised how much Kandy and her colleague’s work would impact the CAQDAS field when in 2006 she came to visit myself and Ann Lewins at the CAQDAS Networking Project (CNP) at the University of Surrey to discuss NatCen’s plans to develop a software program to facilitate Framework, NatCen’s approach to managing and analysing qualitative data. Developed in the 1980s by Jane Ritchie and Liz Spencer at Social and Community Planning Research (SCPR) (which subsequently became NatCen), Framework is a matrix-based approach for ordering and synthesizing qualitative data which is now widely used to support case-based and thematic approaches (see Ritchie & Spencer, 1994 & Ritchie et.al 2013).
SCPR and NatCen researchers had initially undertaken Framework entirely manually using large sheets of graph paper to construct, populate and compare matrices of themes by cases, and had subsequently used Excel spreadsheets to facilitate the process. Kandy wanted to discuss the then available features of existing CAQDAS packages, the extent to which they were suitable for undertaking Framework analysis, and to share with us NatCen’s plans for developing their own in-house software for the purpose. For several hours the three of us discussed the issues and possibilities and Kandy shared her plans.
I remember this meeting very well. It was really interesting to be exposed to the early conceptualisation of a potential new CAQDAS package, and I felt honoured to be included in this small way in the development of what became FrameWork Software. I like to think our input helped Kandy and her colleagues move forward with the plans. At the point we met, NatCen had already decided to develop a software for their own in-house use. But Kandy was keen to hear whether we thought making it available beyond NatCen would be worthwhile - would others be interested in using a software specifically designed for this approach, in the context of the tools already available in other CAQDAS programs? We definitely thought it was worthwhile.
Kandy’s personal qualities always shone through
The collaborative, inclusive and reflective attitude Kandy displayed in this meeting was characteristic of all my engagements with her, and I’m sure many, many others will also have experienced these qualities. I also very much valued learning more about Framework as a data management and analytic approach during this meeting, and as a result was able to incorporate it more fully into my teaching and my thinking about what dedicated software for qualitative analysis could and should enable.
Always reflective about the potential implications on analytic practice
Not long after this meeting, in April 2007 Ann and I organised the CNP conference ‘Advances in Qualitative Computing’. Kandy and her colleague William O’Conner presented two papers in the Impacts of software on methodology and analysis stream, that discussed the ongoing development of the FrameWork software and its potential implications on analytic process and the illustration of quality in qualitative research. The papers were entitled:
Enhancing quality and transparency: the role of FrameWork in supporting robust qualitative research
Getting depth without drowning: how FrameWork can aid in the management and interpretation of qualitative research data
The reflective nature of both these conference presentations characterised Kandy’s professional and personal approach – always seeking to promote high quality analysis, but doing so in a collaborative and thoughtful way. She always sought to hear and take account of others’ opinions.
FrameWork Software released
In September 2008 NatCen published FrameWork Software to the world. Kandy and her colleagues’ hard work had paid off. They’d turned their ideas into reality surprisingly quickly, and had indeed decided to make the software available to the whole research community for purchase. Ann and I were super excited to see this new product.
NatCen made Framework available in a way that reflected the organisation’s principles of ‘concentrating on work of public interest, aiming to allow society to be better informed through high quality social research’ – providing reduced prices and discounts for students, academics and voluntary bodies, underpinning the launch with training courses, and providing a networked version enabling concurrent team-working as well as a single-user version.
Almost immediately after FrameWork software was released, the CAQDAS Networking Project saw an increase in researchers asking us about the approach - an example of how the availability of software tools designed to facilitate specific analytic approaches can encourage use of an analytic approach. Ann and I were pleased to organise a free seminar, to further raise awareness of this new and exciting product. The session was well-attended and did not just showcase the software features (although participants did get to see a comprehensive demonstration), but also discussed the methodological premise of the FrameWork approach. At the time Kandy was Director of NatCen Learning which ran a wide-ranging portfolio of research-related training courses, including on the FrameWork approach and software. As a result, although Ann and I continued to raise awareness via our more general activities at the CNP, we didn’t run our own training workshops for FrameWork software, instead referring researchers to the experts at NatCen.
FrameWork incorporated into NVivo
Three years after the launch of FrameWork software, in September 2011, the functionality developed by Kandy and her colleagues at NatCen was incorporated into NVivo, one of several leading CAQDAS programs. This served to further raise awareness of this approach to managing and analysing qualitative data, because existing NVivo users who may not have been aware of it, were now exposed to the Framework via the integration of the functionality. Framework Matrices with the functionality as originally implemented in NVivo 9, are currently available in the Windows versions of NVivo 12 (but not yet the Mac version).
Flexibility of software tools
A couple of years later the CNP organised another free seminar, this time jointly with NatCen and members of QSR International (the developers of NVivo), where illustrations of different uses of the functionality were presented and discussed. This event brought the impact of Kandy and her colleagues’ work in developing the software into sharp focus. NatCen staff Gareth Morrell, Meg Callanan, and Tom Kenny illustrated how Framework was being used in-house, providing an overview of the genesis of the approach and case-study examples of different uses of NVivo Framework Matrices within NatCen.
In addition, Silvana di Gregorio, then Training and Research Consultancy Manager at QSR International, showed completely different applications of the functionality, including using NVivo Framework Matrices as a project administration tool, and as one way to undertake a literature review. A great example of how software tools can be used creatively for a myriad of purposes, beyond those they may have been developed for.
Wider influences on qualitative analysis and CAQDAS tools
Releasing FrameWork software and its subsequent integration into NVivo served to raise awareness of NatCen’s approach to managing and analysing qualitative data, and Kandy’s role in this – together with her colleagues – is clear. Their work may also have had a real influence on other CAQDAS developments – for example in 2012, another leading CAQDAS program, MAXQDA, released functionality that can also be used to facilitate Framework analysis. The developmental driver for MAXQDA’s Summary Grids and Summary Tables was not explicitly tied to Framework analysis but the idea behind them is very similar and the functionality they provide can certainly be used to undertake Framework.
Bringing the Framework journey to life
In 2014 the CNP organised a conference designed to celebrate the ¼ century since the very first conference that specifically focussed on the use of software for qualitative data analysis: ‘Past, Present and Future: 25 years of CAQDAS’. I invited Kandy as a keynote speaker, and on the Saturday morning she took us on a thoroughly enjoyable and eloquent trip through the history of the Framework approach and software in her presentation entitled: From graph paper to digital research: our Framework journey As usual, an entertaining and inspiring presentation, in which Kandy balanced the methodological and technological by reflecting on the process of software development and the role of software.
Kandy’s CAQDAS contributions – significant but only one part of her life
Kandy’s professional contributions are by no means limited to the CAQDAS field – you only need to spend a moment or two looking at her LinkedIn, Researchgate and Academia.edu accounts, or her Twitter feed, to see that her influence was much more far-reaching than I have recounted here. For example, since leaving NatCen in 2015 after 18 years, Kandy was Head of Social Sciences, Research & (interim) Head of Arts and Humanities at the Higher Education Academy, and Head of Learning and Development for the Samaritans.
However, for those of us who work in the CAQDAS field, Kandy’s contributions – together with those of her NatCen colleagues – were significant. I hope she realised that. Kandy’s passing is a significant loss to many personal and professional groups, including all of us CAQDAS peeps. I hope this post goes some way to celebrating and remembering her contribution.
May she rest in peace.
O-Conner, W. & Woodfield, K (2008) Framework (Software) in Given L.M (ed.) The SAGE Encyclopaedia of Qualitative Research Methods
Ritchie, J. & Spencer, L (1994) Qualitative data analysis for applied policy research, in Bryman A. & Burgess R.G. (eds.) Analysing qualitative data, pp.173-194
Ritchie, J., Lewis, J., Nicholls, C. M., & Ormston, R. (eds.). (2013). Qualitative research practice: A guide for social science students and researchers. Sage publications.